I used to spend a lot more time at the library, digging into biographies and histories, rather than getting a quick overview at Allmusic.com or wikipedia.org.
I’ve spent the month reading this biography, Soul on Soul: The Life and Music of Mary Lou Williams, by Tammy L. Kernodle. It’s been inspiring to read about all the times she had to, or chose to, reinvent herself as a musician and as a person in a larger community.
The introduction of the book starts off with a great series of questions.
“Who was the real Mary Lou Williams? Was she the elegant woman who graced the pages of magazines and newspapers for over sixty years? Was she the demanding artist who often drove managers crazy and made unreasonable requests? Was she the embodiment of the jazzwomans’ desire to move from a place of marginality to a place of equality? Or was she simply the young girl who had escaped the poverity and monotony of domestic life and lived out a modern-day fairy tale?”